In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin addressed the problem of racism that existed in the early 1960s. He gives very powerful accounts of his life growing up in Harlem in the 1930s and 40s. Throughout the book he gives accounts of how whites, blacks, Christians, and Muslims all can be blamed for the racial tensions that existed in the early 1960s. While Baldwin spends much of the criticism on whites, Christians, and Jews, and their inability to give up their hold on the political, financial, and religions power of the country, he also holds the Black and Muslim communities responsible for not working harder to make things better. Baldwin does not feel that the Whites are totally accountable for the racial situation that exists in the US at the time he wrote the book, but he does feel that they have the most to give to make things right.
Baldwin was born into what he termed a Christian nation. Yet he only knew the poverty and oppression in which he lived. It was very early in his adolescence that he realized that he ."..was icily determined...never to make peace with the ghetto but to die and go to Hell before...[he] would accept his place in the republic"(23). Baldwin knew that the odds of getting out of Harlem were stacked against him. He knew, because of a couple of encounters with white policemen at the age of ten and thirteen, and because of the way some of his friends were treated by the military during WWII, and by society afterwards, that blacks could do little to change their situation. Baldwin saw only two ways out for the Black man: ."..wine or whiskey or the needle, and are still on it. And other, like me, fled into the church."(20). In the church he would find acceptance from the community. It took a...
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... against what he read in the Bible: ."..the passion with which we loved the Lord was a measure of how deeply we feared all distrusted and, in the end, hated almost all strangers, always, and avoided and despised ourselves"(41) Baldwin's love affair with Jesus and religion would never be the same. His belief that Jesus would be his Savior was forever lost. He decided that the only way to become a moral person was the completely remove himself from the Christian faith.
Baldwin realized that the church connected all black people to all white people, because the same corruption was occurring in both houses of "God." That both churches operated in the same corrupt manner. He realized that the church was supposed to promote love and kindness, it did, but only to the members of the congregation and other like them. This was too much for Baldwin, so he left for good.
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